Photo by Kelvin Kuo/USA Today Sports Images
By MARK EDWARD HORNISH
CARSON, Calif. — The LA Galaxy didn’t wait for their opponents on Saturday night. After surrendering the first goal in five of their last six matches, the Galaxy returned to fearsome form with a early surge to manhandle the Vancouver Whitecaps, 2-0.
Before a boisterous StubHub Center crowd of 21,637, Landon Donovan posted his second game-winning goal in as many matches, needing only four minutes to give the Galaxy the lead for good. Robbie Keane collected a loose ball at the top of the Vancouver area, turned and hammered a shot into the turf, and when it ran wide, Donovan streaked in and slid onto the ball to roof home his sixth goal of the season.
The Whitecaps were forced to chase the game for the remainder of the night. The Galaxy put on another possession clinic, holding the ball for 61 percent of the match, while completing 666 passes.
“We put a lot of emphasis this week on starting the right way, and not conceding early on,” said Donovan. “Scoring early is a benefit, but we just wanted to make sure we started well and played well. I thought we did that.”
Brazilian stalwart Marcelo Sarvas doubled the Galaxy lead in the 32nd minute, latching onto a deflected Robbie Keane shot and burying a lovely left footed strike inside the far post.
The Galaxy defense had been uncharacteristically suspect in the previous week, surrendering seven goals to Columbus and Colorado. Nevertheless, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena sent out the same back four as he did in Colorado, pairing Omar Gonzalez with the much maligned Leonardo at center back.
This time, LA responded by turning in a clean sheet. The Whitecaps managed only four shots on the evening, and only one — a darting poke by Darren Mattocks in the 81st minute — ever truly tested Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.
“Obviously, this road trip that we just went on, we went through some troubles there. We weren’t playing as a unit,” said Gonzalez. “For tonight’s game we just wanted to get back to putting together a good team effort, getting behind the ball, starting in good positions. Tonight we did that.”
The Galaxy are now 9-0-3 on the season when scoring first.
“Playing at home, with a lead, we’re generally a pretty good team,” said Arena after the match. “I think we had a very good collective effort. Players worked hard on both sides of the ball. It was a very good performance. Our back line played well, but the six players in front of them did a real good job as well.”
With the win, the Galaxy remain in fourth place, but close to within two points of first place in the Western Conference. Real Salt Lake, the Seattle Sounders, and FC Dallas all sit on 42 points atop the West. The Galaxy continue to hold two games in hand on most of the playoff contenders in conference.
“It’s still early,” Arena added. “I think we have 11 games left in the league. It’s important that we try to win seven or eight of those, and position ourselves to move up the ladder into first, or even compete for the Supporter’s Shield. We’re in that mix now.”
The Galaxy will get that chance right away. They now enter their second consecutive two-match week, taking on current Supporter’s Shield race leaders D.C. United at home on Wednesday. A win for the Galaxy could vault them to the top of the Western Conference, as well as potentially move them into a dead heat at the top of the Supporter’s Shield race.
The Galaxy will complete the week by playing visitors to their in-stadium rivals, Chivas USA, in the final edition of the Superclasico on Sunday afternoon.
After collecting only one point in two consecutive matches at the StubHub Center, the Whitecaps will head home for three games. They will host the Portland Timbers on Saturday.
Here at the match highlights: